The Hall of Shame

When it was Randy Grandishar’s turn to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, the committee said, “Sorry, you’re not what we’re looking for.” When Steve Atwater and Karl Mecklenburg deserved to be honored, the committee sent them away. And when Terrell Davis was a semi-finalist and needed to be told yes just one more time to make it where he belongs, the committee shook their heads.

I don’t like to believe in conspiracies and Broncos players being slighted by the Pro Football Hall of Fame is nothing new. However, when Pat Bowlen wasn’t put forward as a finalist by the Senior Committee, I say that something stinks. When Jerry Jones received that spot instead, then there is something very wrong with what the NFL considers to be Hall of Fame-worthy.

Will Mr. B make it in eventually? Sure, but his exclusion in favor of Jerry for next year’s class calls into question the legitimacy of this entire process.

You can call me biased and say this is nothing more than sour grapes, but this runs a lot deeper than a member of the Broncos being wrongfully passed over. Denver fans deal with that on a regular basis. More importantly, this is about THE member of the Broncos being shunned for a man who represents everything that’s ugly about the NFL. Personality traits and conduct aside, Jerry Jones’ ego has made it impossible for the Cowboys to reclaim the glory days of years past or even rise above mediocrity. This is the same owner who drove away Jimmy Johnson and whose shadow looms over a franchise that would be far better off without his constant meddling.

Pat Bowlen, on the other hand, has only ever inspired loyalty and respect from the men who have served on his coaching staff and played on his field. He hired the people he thought were best for the job, then got out of the way and let them go to work. When Mike Shanahan’s tenure as coach had run stale, Bowlen made the difficult decision to let him go despite the strong bond that those two shared. And once the Josh McDaniels experiment turned into a disaster, Mr. B didn’t let it continue just because he thought McDaniels was the next big thing. He was humble enough to admit that he was wrong and smart enough to hire John Elway to turn things around, a decision that’s netted the Broncos five straight division titles, two AFC Championships and a third Lombardi trophy. This one’s for Pat, indeed.

The Cowboys have three playoff wins since 1996, or as many Super Bowls as the Broncos have won in the same time period. But we shouldn’t waste our breath on wins and losses, should we? That’s clearly not what’s most important here. Jerry did just play a big role in ensuring that the Rams move from St. Louis to Los Angeles was successful. Is this the league’s way of repaying him for that? I guess Bowlen’s contributions to making Sunday Night Football the juggernaut that it is today don’t count for much.

I can’t think of one good reason why this makes any sense and the committee would be hard-pressed to defend their decision if they were required to do so. Maybe this is just further evidence of bias against any individual who has represented the Mile High City, and if so that’s a damn shame. Forget the teams that these guys are a part of for a moment and it still comes off as somewhat cruel and unethical. Why give the nod to an active owner who remains very involved with the business of his franchise over a man who was forced to relinquish control of his team due to his deteriorating health? If they are both locks for the Hall of Fame, why does Jerry have to go first?

For the Bowlen family, this may be a non-issue. Mr. B always preferred to stay out of the spotlight and heap the praise on to others (something else he and Jerry definitely don’t have in common). Even so, I find the whole thing to be in bad taste and a clear indication of which qualities will get you enshrined in Canton.

Oversee one of the best franchises in the game and conduct yourself with class and dignity along the way? Nope, that’s not good enough to earn a bust. But if you help line the league’s pockets and behave like a petulant child, then that makes you worthy of consideration. Take note, current Broncos. You better start acting like jerks if you want to build a Hall of Fame resume.

Pat Bowlen not being a finalist isn’t a surprise, even if it feels like it should be. The real surprise is why any of us in Broncos country are caught off-guard when one of our own is treated so disrespectfully.

But this is Pat Bowlen we’re talking about, and he deserved better.

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